Army Medicine’s First African American Female Two-Star General

FALLS CHURCH, Va. Nadja West became Army Medicine’s first African American female two-star general. Commanding General of U.S. Central Command and former Vice-Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin III officiated at the rank pinning ceremony, which took place at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington, Va on April 19, 2013.

West, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Doctorate of Medicine from George Washington University School of Medicine, currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-1/4/6 for the United States Army Medical Command (MEDCOM). As such, she is responsible for all matters related to oversight and management of personnel, logistics, and IM/IT operations both, in the National Capital Region, and at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio.

West hails from the D.C. area and finished high school at the Academy of the Holy Names in Silver Spring, Md. She loved the sciences and working with people, and her engineering and medical degrees helped her do both. But, she said she isn’t sure what she would have done had she not joined the Army.

“I’m not sure that [not joining the Army] was an option,” West said from the Surgeon General’s office at the Pentagon.

West’s father was a career Soldier and many of her siblings either served in the military as a career or for brief enlistments.

“I couldn’t wait to sign up,” she said. “I thought it was what you were supposed to do. I was tickled pink when I was accepted to West Point.” West said that her father always said that people should serve this country because it’s the best country in the world. “And it is,” she said.

West is humbled to be making history as the first African American female two-star general in the Army Medical Department.

“I never really thought about that part,” she said. “My parents taught me to work hard and be the best I can be and things will work out. I’m just really honored.”

West’s dad joined the Army when it was segregated and “knows the sting of that,” West said. Her mother was active in the civil rights movement.

“If anything at all, I hope I can be an inspiration to any one or any group that has not seen themselves in certain positions,” said West, who has had to balance her Army career with that of being a wife and mother. “We all want to see people who look like us doing certain things to give us inspiration. Hopefully, I can inspire someone to be able to say, ‘I can do that’.”

“Brig. Gen. Nadja West’s promotion to major general is a testament to her demonstrated leadership and professional excellence,” said Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, the Army’s current and first female Surgeon General. “Since Nadja’s promotion to colonel, I have observed her career and proudly share in her development as a compassionate professional who represents the Army and Army Medicine with honor, style and gravitas.”

“Nadja has achieved many milestones throughout her venerated medical, academic, and military careers, yet becoming a two-star general officer is momentous.  General Colin Powell once said, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”  The amount of effort, sacrifice, and resolve necessary to achieve this promotion is a collective endeavor of family strength.  I wish Nadja, her husband, Col. Donald West and their lovely family all the best.  Brig. Gen. West’s promotion to major general highlights the enduring strength of the Army and Army Medicine,” Horoho said from Afghanistan.

Maj. Gen. West has served more than 30-years and has no plans on retiring anytime soon.

“I’ll stay in [the Army] as long as I can make meaningful contributions,” she said.

West has been tapped for duty on the Joint Staff as the Joint Staff Surgeon.


Original article- The Washington Informer- May 8, 2013

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